I recently logged into Facebook to find that a coworker from the past had added me to a private group for a “party” where she offered to sell me fancy clothes that aren’t my style. The ads that began flooding my feed were wedged in a constant barrage of selfies from an old friend, smiling and holding up a post-workout protein shake that she was selling. More and more of my friends were working with multi-level marketing companies to earn an extra buck.
These multi-level marketing companies (MLMs) have turned everyone around me into business owners trying to sell expensive wares in order to make a meager amount of money (if anything) while the parent companies make bank.
If you’ve got friends on Facebook — or even in “real life” — chances are that you’ve been approached by someone trying to sell you these overpriced items. Maybe they’ve even tried to get you to sign up as a “coach” or a “consultant” under them so that you can buy their products for cheaper or even sell them yourself.
I have a lot of good memories with these friends. So it’s tough to say no — which is exactly what these multi-level marketing companies bank on.
How to Say No to Multi-Level Marketing
So what’s the best way to say no to MLM invitations without ruining relationships? I decided to ask some of my more money-savvy friends to see what advice they had.
The Soft Approach
Although the constant sales pitches may make you want to scream, it’s often better to take a gentle approach. Nick True of Mapped Out Money suggests that you honestly listen to your friends' sales pitches first before declining. “If you immediately say no, they will keep harassing you and insisting you just need to hear them out,” he says. “So hear them out, and then politely decline and cite a few very specific reasons. Then remind them that you've listened and hope it works out for them, but it's just not for you.”
But what about all those annoying ads and selfies sneaking into your feed? Jason Butler of the Butler Journal has a genius solution:
“I've had people that I've had to unfriend or unfollow their posts. It's annoying seeing that stuff all day.”
By unfollowing them, you still remain friends, but you’ll stop seeing their posts in your feed. The best part? They’ll have no idea that you’ve done it.
Emily Lima Burke of Burke Does recommends early action. “I just make it known to my friends — MLM-selling or not — that I live my life on a budget,” she says. “They see me turn down the opportunity to go out to dinner, so they're not shocked and don't take it personally when I do it to their MLM party.”
Sometimes, softening the blow of bad news can also help. Sylvia Inks runs SMI Financial Coaching and flat-out tells friends that she doesn’t support the MLM business model. However, she follows up by offering to refer other interested people to them. “I say if I found someone who didn't share my same opinions and really wanted to buy the product, I would be happy to refer the person to her.”
The Hardline Approach
Some people just need to be told “no” right from the get-go. John Rampton of the financial company Due says that you should “just be honest with them and tell them you're not interested in joining an MLM. I've found that being upfront (before they even drag you into their hour-long meeting) is the best way. Nip it in the bud before it starts.”
Lauren Greutman had been a high-level seller in a multi-level marketing company before realizing the dangers that they pose. (One night, she racked up $12,000 in credit card debt to reach a company goal!) Now she just tells people, “I have a boundary where I do not attend or purchase from direct-sales companies. I am an overspender, and it is a boundary of mine that I cannot cross.”
Another strategy to say no to MLM invitations is to listen to the sales pitch before giving completely honest feedback. “If my friends join a company that sells something, I usually try it out if it's in the realm of something I'd use,” says Crystal Stemberger of Budgeting in the Fun Stuff. “But then I'm completely honest with my feedback. This has meant that my friends only even tell me they are selling something if they're 90 percent sure I'd like it.”
Don’t be Afraid Losing Friends
You don’t have to be rude, but telling a good friend “no” can still be scary. Don’t worry about it too much, though. If your friend is willing to break off your relationship because you don't want to purchase a high-priced energy drink, chances are that they've already stopped thinking of you as a friend — you’re just a dollar sign to them. True friendships are strong enough to withstand hardships — multi-level marketing included.